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Marcel Nies

20. Buddha Head
Cambodia, Bayon
circa 1200 A.D.
Grey sandstone
height 29 cm.

Buddha Head

The historical Buddha Gautama Sakyamuni is the embodiment of compassion who, having achieved the highest evolutionary perfection, turns suffering into happiness for all living beings. One of the most remarkable achievements of Khmer art was the development of portraiture towards the end of the 12th century. The Buddhist religious system became increasingly more important in Cambodia during the reign of Jayavarman VII, who was a follower of mahayana Buddhism and ruled Cambodia from 1181-1218 A.D. This important Buddhist monarch was regarded as the supreme king of all kings, and felt strongly associated with the historical Buddha. The sculptural portraits of the majestic image of Jayarvarman VII have been depicted with a great sense of realism and can be considered among the world's greatest royal portraits. The depiction of a real individual in the form of a Buddhist deity, as reflected in this image, was thought to be connected to the power and compassion of the historical Buddha. Most likely this portrait is associated with the king in his youth; another consideration is the connection with his wife Jayaradevi, whose expression, slightly more elongated, resembles the facial features of her husband.

The head of Buddha is depicted with fine haircurls and with full eyebrows and half-closed eyes. The ushnisa which denotes his spiritual wisdom is portrayed above his head. The elongated earlobes reflect Buddha's royal origins.

This fine life size head of Buddha is a classic representation for the 'serene realism' of the Bayon style; finely featured with haircurls and full eyebrows over half-closed eyes, as well as the large sensual pronounced and smiling mouth, are typical characteristics for the Bayon style in the late 12th and early 13th century.

The realistic portrait of this historical Buddha resembles in many ways the portraits of Jayarvarman VII. The ideal image of the most important historical image is therefore associated with the most popular monarch of his time. With his eyes closed in deep meditation, the head reveals a deeply religious 'peace of mind' with a great sense of serene inner power. With its emphasis on natural volume rather than line, this head of Buddha appears like a majestic image expressing his achievement of perfection and spirit of compassion.

Formerly in the collection of Mr. H. Loschengruber, Germany.
Formerly in the collection of Mr. A. Kiepe, Germany.


all text, images Marcel Nies

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